OP councilman: Plaza smart idea since development on Kingsley is inevitable

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Orange Park residents:

Recently, there has been a lot of conversation around the Town of Orange Park and Clay County regarding a proposed development on Kingsley. At a recently held community engagement meeting held by Orange Park Plaza’s developers approximately 200 people attended.

There were a handful of people who were not happy with the project for various reasons. However, after learning more about what this development will consist of, many are no longer in opposition. It is important to know that this event was not required by the Town nor did the Town participate in any way. It was put on by the developers so the residents can look, learn, and listen about the development and the benefits it brings to the Town and the County.

At the meeting, they had several drawings of what the development would look like. A few additional facts regarding the positives of this project is that they will offer housing for young to old as well as military housing. It will bring in businesses such as grocery, restaurant, beauty and barber shops and other retail-like establishments. The total cost of this project can be upwards of $70 million. This can bring into the revenue for the Town over $400,000 annually just in property tax and approximately the same amount for the County and school system. This is not even including all the utility fees, water, and other related tax revenue.

This is important because projections made prior to 2018 regarding total funds that will be available to the Town are projected to be lower by more than $1 million a year compared to what the Town gets now. In a Town that in its general budget only collects $10.3 million, this is a significant reduction. Out of this $10.3 million nearly 65% of that money is spent on personnel costs including all its associated expenses.

The Town only had a little over two years to prepare for this short fall in revenue. Without new development it could put the Town in a serious/negative position. This would mean reduction in personnel and services to the people in the Town. So much of the public thinks that their property taxes pay the total bill for the Town. Not true! Property taxes make up less than $3.5 million of the $10-plus-million needed. It is through all the other revenue streams that the Town gets the money needed to operate the Town as of now. We must continue to strive for additional revenue especially since the State has now changed how it distributes shared tax revenue. The Town of Orange Park has been hit the hardest!

Without a doubt that property on Kingsley will be developed. It could include buildings and other developments that will not be appealing to the Town. And, yes, that includes a HUD project. Last year prior to the present proposed project there was a proposal made to the Town that was HUD housing. This proposal was submitted by the Pastor of the Church that rented the property. After the deal to buy the property fell through the present developer began conversations with myself and the Town as to what is needed in the Town and Clay County.

We immediately directed him to look at Tapestry Park in Jacksonville. I set up numerous meetings for him with past and present military people from NAS Jacksonville. I also set meetings up with companies that search for commercial and retail businesses to locate within a development. The County and the school system also supported the Town’s ideas and worked with the developer. The input by all of these entities has resulted in what the proposed looks like and will be used for.

I think you will agree that if development takes place and it will. There will be other projects that will take place as our economy and population grows. We need to try and make sure that it is of the caliber of the Kingsley project. We cannot stop development; property owners are entitled to use their properties for new businesses and development. We can only try and influence it.

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